2019 Annual Report

From Our Board Chair

Katy Smith AbbottKaty Smith Abbott

My introduction to Vermont Humanities came through the First Wednesdays program. I have been a speaker and an audience member at these free public lectures, which also serve as community gatherings. When I imagine First Wednesdays evenings, it’s somehow always winter, and folks are coming through the door wearing layers of down, wool, and fleece. Snow melts off boots as the attendees settle into their chairs and the speaker is introduced.

I am always moved by the sight of Vermonters of all ages and backgrounds pausing in the middle of a work week for shared learning in a local library. And First Wednesdays is just one example of how Vermont Humanities strives to reach all Vermonters with the power of the humanities.

Our work in 2019 was marked by collaboration. It was an honor and a thrill to welcome Congressman John Lewis and his March Trilogy co-author Andrew Aydin to Burlington in October. For years to come I’ll remember the power, honesty and humanity with which they addressed the public at three sold-out shows (including two matinees for schoolchildren) at the Flynn Theater. This collaboration with Vermont PBS, Vermont Public Radio, the Flynn Center, and the University of Vermont meant that people of all ages, from across the state, had the remarkable opportunity to hear from—and even meet!—a legendary public servant.

Collaboration was at the heart of our Fall Conference as well. Guided by the theme “Searching for Home: Journeys, Quests, and Migrations,” our annual interdisciplinary gathering included a performance by Arabic jazz clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, the result of a partnership with the Lane Series at UVM. The conference also featured a walking tour of food markets in the Old North End, led by members of Historic New England and Burlington Food Tours.

We look forward to embracing a similar spirit of timely, cross-disciplinary inquiry in all of our work in 2020, including with our Fall Conference around the theme of “Democracy/2020” which begins with online events in August and concludes with in-person events in October and November if safety guidelines allow. I hope that you enjoy our weekly digital events, and that we can meet once again in person in the near future.